Think I may have messed up the posting of a blog which was due to appear this morning, and you may not have received an e-mail notification of it (if you’ve subscribed) or may not be able to comment (if you wish). Anyway, opening this brief one hopefully may give you full access to the one before! I’m still learning…
Stayed with my aunt B in Berkshire for a couple of nights this week, and travelled on to central London while I was there to see my friend Mary. The main activity of that day was a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Mary was familiar with it but I had not seen it before, except quite a lot on TV in 2012. (Well, to be honest, I watched more of the Olympics from Wimbledon and Greenwich Park.)
Until the end of the month, ‘Beach East at the Park’ is likely to be the first thing that catches your eye.
But normally it would be the main stadium,
which seems to be having quite a bit of work done on it right now. But wherever you are, you can’t miss the Orbit, and I was thinking of going up it if it was high enough. I knew that Mary wouldn’t want to, and here she is confirming her decision.
As we grew closer, I started thinking that it didn’t really seem to be all that high, and wasn’t sure I wanted to go up after all. I settled in my mind on the sort of entry fee I would be willing to pay, saw this
and decided that I would have to be able to go twice as high as that to pay the sort of charge they were making. So after a little rest on a bench, we moved on. Mary said that perhaps I needed to go up The Shard.
Olympic Park is a great place for children.
But I was most interested in seeing the wildlife friendly planting, of which such a lot was made at opening. The Park is set around the River Lee (or Lea) as it nears the Thames. It is very easy to find tranquillity, even though roads – and rail – are not far away.
There are thousands and thousands of young trees,
and every available corner is filled with insect-friendly planting. I had feared that this late on in the season nearly everything would have gone over, and there’d be little of beauty to be seen, but I was delighted to find my fears were totally unjustified.
After an early evening meal out, near Mary’s home, at which Susanpoozan joined us, it was back to Waterloo by tube for me for my mainline train. Having once overshot – because asleep – the Berkshire station I was to alight at, this time I set an alarm on my phone, but fortunately didn’t need it.
Part of the next day was spent picking my own with B. I had never done this before, and was amused to see this signpost.
An hour or so over coffee with B, my cousin and her two young children (two bad photos, so neither here) was followed by the third of an Upwords best of three with B. I won. I note this because it must be the first time in decades of games with B that this has ever happened, and even so this was by the narrowest of margins.
I love begonias, as I have said before, and was delighted to find these in her garden.
I was even more pleased not to fall asleep on my journey back to the West Country in the evening, as I was driving.
birds, blackbird, Caerlaverock, Carlisle, chiff-chaff, Eskrigg nature reserve, lapwing, linnet, Lockerbie, Lockerbie disaster, mallard, moorhen, Peter Scott, redshank, swallow, swan, willow warbler, WWT
I had not looked round Lockerbie itself yet, so on Friday morning took a stroll round the town centre on foot, including a visit to the library for information on the Eskrigg Nature Reserve nearby. Lockerbie’s handsome buildings are also of red sandstone. The parish church, which was closed, was enormous.
So was this building, which I assumed to be the Town Hall, though, other than a minuscule plaque commemorating the town’s (and others’) disaster of 1988, there was no other sign attached to the building at all. I had to go inside to confirm that my assumption was correct.
Nearby were these and five other sheep
I decided that my day would be best filled by a trip to Caerlaverock, to visit the Wildlands and Wetlands Trust reserve, and the castle if there was time. This decision had the advantage of taking me though more glorious countryside.
Having studied the plan of the WWT site over coffee, I started my tour of several of the hides. At one, I was grateful to a couple who visit most days for pointing out where the linnet and the redshank were to be seen.
The reserve is on the edge of the Solway Firth, so that’s the Lake District in the distance.
It is bounded by farmland on one side.
Unlike the Lockerbie sheep, these were living.
I had been told that there was ‘nothing’ to be seen at the Sir Peter Scott hide, by which my informants must have meant nothing unusual. I took pleasure nevertheless in sitting there after lunch watching swans, mallards and moorhens. And learnt that when mallard is occupying a place where moorhen wants to be, it gives way, smartish.
Then I decided to do the ‘summer’ walk, not available the rest of the year because of overwintering fowl. It was delightful,
especially as for at least five minutes two blackbirds insisted on showing me the way as I strolled along.
The swans I’d seen earlier also seemed to want to keep an eye on me.
I enjoyed looking not only at wildfowl but plants as well.
I was nowhere near a hide when it started raining again, so my new umbrella came in useful. By the time I got back to my car it had stopped, but I heard the castle calling.
There turned out to be a wedding going on there, but visiting was not restricted. Glaring guests just didn’t appreciate how discreet one was trying to be. (One was not dressed suitably.)
Accompanying the wedding was a bagpiper.
Hers was not the only kilt around, but I didn’t dare point my camera at the others, much as I’d love to have done.
The next day, it was time to go home to the cats, by train from Carlisle. Somehow my camera forgot it was no longer on holiday, until we had left Cumbria anyway.
So ended my trip up north. My next big trip is in September, wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil, largely by river boat, but perhaps I’ll find a pretext for posting photos again before then…
On Thursday, 23rd July, I was again to be with two people with whom I had been in contact for a while, but had never met. My late mother’s second cousin and I were have lunch together at New Abbey. On the way, I stopped at Dumfries to explore a little. (Note the sun, it won’t stay for long and it was chilly.)
This is still the top of a Burton shop.
The tiny entrance to this Hole i’ the Wa’ looked so fascinating that I thought I might take a coffee there on my way back down the main street.
I know it doesn’t do the building any good, but I do like seeing vegetation growing where it’s not meant to.
My eye was caught by these – and other elsewhere in the window – gentlemen!
I soon found myself in an elegant, no doubt former residential, part of Dumfries, now largely occupied by the professions.
Beyond the restaurant, these buildings are the courts and the procurator fiscal’s office.
When I went back to the Hole i’ the Wa’, I was greeted by this along the alleyway:
The inside of the inn was as large as the entrance was small, with a variety of bars and rooms. I was able to tuck myself in a corner with my coffee and observe.
Well refreshed, when going back down the high street intending to return direct to the car park, I was tempted right, sideways and downhill, as it looked to me as if there might be a riverside at the end of that road. There was indeed, quite a picturesque one with some nice bridges, of which here is one, over the River Nith.
It was raining by the time I got back to the car park.
R. and I had arranged to meet and lunch at the (New) Abbey Cottage Tearoom, next to Sweetheart Abbey, and we were able to dodge the showers just long enough to have a quick look round before eating. This once Cistercian Abbey was founded by Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway, wife of Lord John Balliol, in 1275.
In the Tearoom, the waitress had some difficulty in getting our order out of us, we were talking so much about who was related to whom, how well had each of us known so-and-so, and general getting-to-know-you conversation, but eventually she got a look in, and we ate, rather slowly as we were talking so much.
We moved on to R. and his wife’s home, deep in the hills, built not in the dark red sandstone of Dumfries and New Abbey, but in the pretty granite of the country we were now in.
The talking continued, and continued, more on family history, (R. has done a lot of genealogical work on my maternal grandmother’s side), then on R.’s former work as a sound engineer for the BBC, and then on music. R. is a very competent pianist, and his father was organist at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark (I hadn’t realised there were two cathedrals in Southwark before) and used to compose. He showed me some songs his father had written, in a beautiful manuscript. I really wanted to try some of them, but didn’t dare suggest it, limiting myself to just reading a few bars of some of them in my head. How I wish I’d said something, because, as I learned later, too late, that was just what R. wanted as well. And I’m not usually one to hold back…
Later in the afternoon, the three of us standing in the kitchen, I saw a red squirrel out in the garden! Beautiful. I took my camera, and was planning to sit quietly out there to see what I could snap. I was outside for just a few minutes, and got this,
then the rain started again. From inside, I managed to take nothing of real wildlife interest, but this at least shows some of the abundant granite boulders lying naturally in the garden.
As the evening before, the encounter ended with a pleasant meal out at the Mabie House Hotel, conveniently placed for my drive back to Lockerbie. As we left, it was so warm that we nearly drove away without our jackets.
I had just one day of my holiday left, and absolutely nothing planned for it.
Lockerbie’s Townhead Hotel, where I was to stay for four nights, turned out to be another good one. After breakfast the next morning, Wednesday 22nd July, I was picked up by Tom and his wife. Tom is a brother of my very long-standing London friend Mary. They very kindly looked after me for the whole day, and took me round to see just some of the wonders of their part of the world, near Borders country. (I had thought to offer to do the driving in my hire car, but I was very happy in the event to escape the BWB for a day.)
We went first to the town of Moffat,
where I was able to buy a new umbrella to replace the one I’d left on a Glasgow bus, and where I singularly failed to notice the Moffat Ram monument. You can see that on Tom’s (Tootlepedal’s) own blog. Over a very welcome coffee (coffee is always welcome) we talked about blogging for a long while. Not for the only time in the day. Poor Mrs Tootlepedal.
We drove north, to a once sinister place called the Devil’s Beef Tub, where raided cattle used to be hidden at the time of the Border Rievers. The hollow was pretty impressive, even in today’s more peaceful times.
Then on to a waterfall called the Grey Mare’s Tail. Mrs Tootlepedal and I took a short walk to get nearer to it while Tom pottered below taking lots of pictures (though these are mine).
So did I at the slightly elevated position we were in, and I practised focusing with my bridge camera on further things when the auto focus wants to concentrate on the nearer object.
It was never really warm during the day, but we were pretty lucky with the weather. Not though just as we got to our next stop, the Loch of the Lowes.
So we didn’t even try to stop at the adjacent St Mary’s Loch. For lunch we drove on to a community café in Eskdalemuir, the Hub, about which I had read much in Tom’s blog, and where I was able to admire examples of his camera club’s work on the walls.
After lunch the sky started brightening.
A pause to draw breath and admire the garden at their home in Langholm followed. Most days there are some beautiful photos of Mrs Tootlepedal’s amazing horticultural achievements on Tom’s blog.
We didn’t linger for long, but were off again after a cup of tea, this time to see – it was too late to go in – the outside of Hermitage Castle, on the Riever Trail.
To return to Langholm we crossed a moor, where we stopped for a while, got our binoculars out, and watched a hen harrier quartering for prey. No successful photos, regrettably. The next and last stop of the afternoon was at the MacDiarmid Memorial
where I took advantage of the afternoon sun to take a couple more pictures of the beautiful Dumfriesshire countryside.
A meal at the Douglas Hotel in Langholm rounded off a really enjoyable day with my friend’s brother and his wife.
Before hopping on the bus again, I walked to the nearby Glasgow School of Art, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, still sadly closed after the disastrous fire in May last year. But this is all I could see.
Before getting to the next hop-on bus stop, I noticed that Glasgow should be called San Francisco on Clyde.
After some bits of shopping and a very efficient encounter with the branch of my bank in Queen Street (it is only recently, because of the current inquiry, that I have realised that I was where the horrific bin lorry incident took place a few months ago), I took the bus again. This at one point took me over what Glaswegians call ‘The Squinty Bridge’, properly known as the Clyde Arc. Not at its best here because of the rain, from pictures it seems in any case to be prettier lit up at night.
Choosing to believe the weather forecast that, if it was not to get any warmer, it was at least due to stop raining, I arrived at the Botanic Gardens, my confidence justified. My first visit was to the Kibble Palace,
where I was particularly taken by the display of carnivorous plants.
I then moved on to the main glasshouses, where I was delighted to find one of my favourites, begonias (slideshow).
Here are some other plants I enjoyed in the conservatories:
I didn’t spent a great deal of time outdoors, as the weather really wasn’t favourable. The Gardens are abundantly supplied with dedicated benches,
but, as you can see, the populace felt just as I did about being outside. I did visit the rose garden, though it seemed to be past its best for this year, then had a little sit-down in a sheltered spot for a while. Lunch was in the swelteringly hot café.
In better weather, I felt I could spend an entire day visiting these lovely Botanic Gardens, but chilly and with by now very sore feet, I decided to end my visit to Glasgow at that point. Having recovered my suitcase from my hotel, I took a taxi to pick up my pre-booked ‘compact’ hire car. On being asked by the company if I would mind having a slightly larger one, for the same price, I cavilled when I saw what they were offering,
and asked whether there wasn’t an alternative as I had never driven such a wide car in my life. There wasn’t, they said. I have to report that it was no pleasure to drive this BMW 3200 D Sport, aka the Big White Beast, for the four days I had it. I was nervous all the time, terrified that it might be stolen or vandalised, and the ride was no nicer than that of my 14-year old Peugeot 206. Only the steering felt a little better, though I couldn’t tell you why. Oh, and I did enjoy the fact it was automatic.
On next to beautiful Dumfriesshire for three full days.
I walked from the Riverside Museum to Kelvingrove, though I could have hopped on the bus again. The Art Gallery and Museum is a work of art in itself:
The entrance hall was even noisier than Riverside, and for the same reason, compounded by the fact it is a café. It reminded me strongly of the Bristol City Museum which uses its similar entrance hall for a similar purpose.
I had never heard of the Glasgow Boys, but was delighted to make their acquaintance in a gallery all of their own. Here is some of their work which particularly caught my eye. (Photography is permitted in the gallery’s own collections.)
Moving on, I was amused to see a poster about the Utility Furniture promoted during World War 2. My parents married in 1939 and furnished their first home on this. I still have the bookcase featured back left!
Here are some more works in the Gallery which particularly pleased me.
The label says ‘Pot of Life, 2005, designed by Lucky Oboh,’ but I can’t make who cast it.
This one is apparently a favourite with many visitors.
The symposium at Northumbria University in Newcastle finished on Sunday afternoon (19th July) and I travelled on to Glasgow by train. I B and B’d for two nights in a small, central hotel, with small but sufficient facilities, and at a small price. To get around the city, where I was to be for nearly two days, I had already booked a two-day pass on a hop-on hop-off, sightseeing bus, which gave easy access to many of Glasgow’s attractions. (I tried to sit in the open part of the semi open-top bus, but wind and rain made this impossible for much of the time.) Having got on just round the corner from my hotel, I alighted at George Square, where the City Chambers looked to me remarkably like a French Hôtel de Ville.
From there the bus took me to St Mungo’s Cathedral. It’s dark exterior:
came as quite a shock after the light stone of Newcastle’s cathedral, but I came to appreciate it. The mediaeval building was absolutely enormous. The first thing I noticed on entering was the modern stained glass west window.
The lovely views between pillars tempted me on to explore:
Finally the choir:
Outside could be seen part of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The 1794 6-floor, 100-bed Adams building was demolished to make place for this one, opened in 1914, though the infirmary has been much expanded on the site over the years since, and now has a capacity of about 1000 beds.
I hopped back on the bus, and continued taking pictures.
I got off at the Riverside Museum (the Clyde River that is) where I had an excellent lunch, and much enjoyed looking at some of the very well presented historic transport. I could have stayed much longer, but was discouraged by the very noisy presence of half of Glasgow’s children and their parents, as it seemed to me all taking refuge from the weather.
There was a Tall Ship outside on the river, but I gave up on trying to get a good angle on it for a photo, until I turned round…
To complete my first day I Glasgow, I moved on to Kelvingrove Park and particularly the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. That’s for the next post.